EducationLocal NewsFort Worth ISD Parents Push Back Against Focus on Racial Equity as Student Performances Falter

Parents of FWISD students are raising concerns about time and resources spent on equity policies rather than the basic skills of education like reading and math.
June 23, 2021
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Fort Worth ISD’s (FWISD) students are falling behind, with many not mastering or even meeting expectations for their grade level. Parents and other concerned citizens believe the leadership of the district ought to be held accountable to focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic and not on equity programs that often act as cover for critical race theory. 

Many spoke out on the issues at the FWISD school board meeting this week after gathering for a rally beforehand.

Fort Worth ISD has a student population of over 80,000 students, according to the district’s website. The district has a “C” rating from the Texas Education Agency, according to the data most recently available. Dallas ISD has a “B” rating by comparison.

Only 12 percent of students have mastered their grade level in reading, only 15 percent in math, and only 8 percent in writing. 

Dr. Kent Scribner, superintendent of FWISD since 2015, “has narrowed the district focus to three areas: early literacy, middle years’ math, and college, career and military readiness.”

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Yet in 2019, only 34 percent of Fort Worth ISD third-grade students were reading at or above their grade level, according to State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) data, down slightly from the year before.

Scribner said at the recent school board meeting that the district “had very encouraging student achievement scores” just before the pandemic, but he gave no specifics.

According to the STAAR reports for Spring 2021, 53 percent of FWISD students did not meet expectations for Algebra I, and 51 percent did not meet expectations for English I.

In determining how it will spend the nearly $262 million it is receiving as COVID-19 relief from the federal government, FWISD surveyed students, parents, and teachers. None of the top responses in those surveys included more focus on equity policies.

Deputy Superintendent Karen Molinar pointed out that students want help with reading and math, “that came out loud and clear.”

Top survey results from both parents and teachers also covered more effective instruction and instructional support.

Nonetheless, $23.5 million of the federal funds are planned for “social emotional learning support.” Social emotional learning is often an ill-defined program that ends up pushing left-leaning agendas like critical race theory couched in terms of equity. 

According to Missie Carra, a concerned parent of two FWISD students and director of Texas Parents’ Rights in Education, the district has three main issues: 1) student achievement is abysmal, 2) teacher support is non-existent, and 3) ideology is prioritized over academics. 

She’d like to see pressure put on the superintendent to improve the district performance or leave and the school board to hold him accountable.

Carlos Turcios, a 2020 FWISD graduate and child of immigrants, sees the problems in the district. He organized the rally and march before this week’s meeting, which drew over 100 participants.

“FWISD is behind Dallas and Houston. We don’t need ideologies, politics, and wokeness,” Turcios told The Texan. “We need to just focus on teaching children.”

Mario Rodriquez, a FWISD parent and member of Focus on Students PAC, believes that COVID-19 helped bring “the abysmal record of FWISD” to light. He believes what he sees as an emphasis on critical race theory as a distraction. 

“FWISD is hoping critical race theory continues to be a distraction from the bad job it is doing in other areas,” Rodriguez told The Texan. He feels optimistic that things can change “because parents are fed up.”

“This controversial ideology is taking time away from things kids could be learning to move forward in life,” Rodriguez added.

The district has a Department of Equity and Excellence which has the goal of ensuring “equity in all practices and at all organizational levels in FWISD by providing professional development to build a deep and common understanding of the impact of institutionalized racism and equity, specifically racial equity, on student achievement.”

At least one training for staff and teachers is “designed for educators to deepen their understanding and develop skills in breaking down barriers in a system of racism, the role of race and the truth about disparities, the importance of culturally relevant pedagogy, and how to have a courageous conversation about race. The learner will learn about our racial equity and ethnic policy, what our district data looks like and the history of racism in education.”

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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.